According to Courtney Watson, twenty percent of the county councilpersons time is spent on zoning issues. Since the council also sits as the zoning board they are tasked with some of the same challenges faced by planning professionals, weighing individual property owners’ rights and interests against the greater public good.
After Courtney placed the one dissenting vote against Pat McCuan’s planned redevelopment of the property at the intersection of US Route 1 and Montevideo Road I asked her what her objections were. She told me she “wasn't sold on the additional drive through lanes allowed for the restaurant…. It doesn't mean I don't like the project, but that I wasn't convinced the changes needed to be made to make the project viable.”
It’s a tough call. The ability to have a drive thru window is often a prerequisite for attracting a chain restaurant. According to this article by Tom Vanderbilt in Slate, “drive-throughs account for some 65 percent of McDonald's U.S. sales—a stunning demonstration of the radical shift in traffic culture, and increase in driving, since the early 1970s. The window has become so crucial that McDonald's actually demolished an outpost that was slated for renovation in San Luis Obispo, Calif., after the city upheld its ban on drive-throughs. (A company spokesman said, "We can't build a million-dollar McDonald's and not have a drive thru. We just can't do it.")”
Without the ability to provide a drive through window for a restaurant, the developer may not be able to attract a restaurant. Without a national credit restaurant chain to anchor the project the developer may not be able to secure financing. Without financing the project won’t be built and the redevelopment of the Route 1 corridor could be further delayed.
On the other hand, San Luis Obispo isn’t the only municipality taking a hard look at drive through windows “as people question the drive-through's environmental impact, its place in the evolving landscape of obesity (a 1,420-calorie Hardee's Monster Thickburger without having to leave your seat!), and even who has the right to step up to its crackly intercom.”
The politician planner is left to decide which of these paths is in the best interests of the community.
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